Alicia & Dave

Alicia writes in memory of her dad, Dave, who passed away just 21 days after being diagnosed with metastatic pancreatic cancer, aged only 57. Alicia shares her special memories of how her dad was able to be part of her wedding day, and being there for him at the end of his life.


It was around the summer of 2014 and dad had started mentioning that he had lost weight. He was a type 2 diabetic and had been for around 10 years (it runs in the family, his dad had it too). I remember thinking he actually seemed really chuffed he’d lost the weight.

He started getting more symptoms

Then he started to mention that he was getting pain in his side. He took a few visits to the doctors who told him it was “intercostal muscle pain”, “side effects of being diabetic” and even “gall stones”. He was fobbed off every time. It wasn’t until I came home from work for lunch one day and popped into mum and dad’s house that I started to worry. I found him asleep in my old room saying he couldn’t go to work as his back hurt so much.

My mum and sister Eleanor are both nurses, so the thought that maybe it could be something worse had started to be mentioned, but nobody really wanted to accept that. Over the next few months, he kept saying the pain was there all the time and stopped going to work. My dad has always worked on the railway, and work was his passion. He then lost more weight and had numerous ultrasounds, which always came back clear.

Me and my partner Andy were due to get married on 20th December 2014, and it was on about the 3rd of December dad finally got admitted into hospital as he couldn’t keep his food down and was in so much pain. The hospital then started to act pretty quickly and sent him for emergency MRI scans.

The diagnosis was a shock

It was the 6th of December 2014, and I was attending a wedding in Northampton. I got a phone call from my brother Alex, so I answered it and all he said was “It’s bad, it’s pancreatic cancer and it’s everywhere”. All I remember after that was just falling to the floor!

We found out that the cancer had spread to his gallbladder, abdomen, liver, lungs and spine.

It was too advanced for treatment

The doctor at the hospital said dad had maybe a few months at best and that because of how advanced the cancer was, they could offer no treatments whatsoever. In one doctor’s words “go home and appreciate the good days”, but dad didn’t have a good day again. Dad was home for a week in which we all rallied around him in a bit of a blur, because on top of this terrible news we still had a wedding to plan.

It was then on the 12th of December he was blue lighted in an ambulance into hospital with a DVT (a blood clot) which was due to the pancreatic cancer. This unfortunately turned into a pulmonary embolism on his lungs, and he never came home after that.

He managed to be at my wedding

The day of my wedding, Dad was on oxygen and couldn’t walk. The hospital gave him special permission to be let out and he walked me down the aisle with help from my brother pushing his wheelchair. The wedding ceremony went by, and I am forever grateful that he was there, something my siblings never got to experience. After the ceremony he stayed back in the church while we had our pictures taken outside, and thanks to my brother and his wife recorded his father of the bride speech as a surprise.

He wasn’t well enough to come to the reception, so went back to the hospital where all his best friends met him and stayed with him. This was so we could enjoy the evening without worrying that he would be by himself. His speech played on the big screen and was a massive surprise to everyone, including me. It was so emotional, and I remember people saying even years afterwards, they still feel so privileged to have been there to watch it. To this day I still can’t watch my wedding video.

He went into a hospice

Dad went into a hospice on the 24th of December as he had declined so fast. By then he had become yellow and skeletal. Dad was unable to eat and barely awake. It was then seeing him sat at a window it hit me just how frail and poorly he was, and what the cancer had done to his body in such a short space of time, while accepting that the end was very close.

On Christmas day morning, we all went to the hospice to be with him. It was then me and my husband decided to tell our immediate family that a few days earlier we had found out I was expecting our third baby. It was the last conversation I ever had with him, I will never forget that smile on his face!

We were able to say goodbye

We went home that afternoon as we had two young children at home and wanted to spend time with them on Christmas day. Then in the evening my sister called me and said, “dad’s gone downhill and it’s time”. Me, my brother, sister and mum then rushed to be with him. We all sat with him together to say our goodbyes. He managed to hang on through the night and the hospice set up beds for all four of us in his room. We all stayed and slept in the room with him over night, so that he was never by himself.

The next day some of us went home to wash etc and I wasn’t feeling well from being early pregnant. Dad died around 6pm that evening on the 26th of December 2014. He was 57 years old. It had been 21 days from diagnosis to his passing away. It was all so quick, we never had any chance to really use any services available to us for pancreatic cancer, although we did find some of the end-of-life charities in the area invaluable.

He missed out on so much

Dad has left a huge void in all our lives. He missed out on seeing my brother get married, and the birth of five of his grandchildren including three grandsons who have all been named in some way after him. Sometimes it hits us just how quick it all was and that we didn’t really get a chance to take in what was happening, and then he was gone.

Since his passing, I have raised money for pancreatic cancer charities and share information on social media as much as possible, in order to help spread awareness of this horrible disease that took away such an amazing man.